The future

There are different structures that can be used to talk about the future: will, going to, present continuous and present simple. In the charts below, you can find their differences:

Info1

As you can see, we use WILL to make predictions based on our opinion. That’s why it is usual to find a future sentence introduced by:

  • I think / I don’t think …
  • I believe …
  • I am sure …

On the other hand, we use the periphrasis GOING TO to express predictions based on fact; what we know, what we can see or hear. In other words, we are reaching conclusions about future events from our surroundings, rather than predicting.

Info2

We can also use different future forms to talk about our plans for the future. If we are talking about a future action that we decide at the time of speaking, we must use WILL. Whereas, we use GOING TO or the PRESENT CONTINUOUS to talk about actions that we have already planned. The difference between GOING TO and the PRESENT CONTINUOUS is that we use the latter when we have not only planned but also organised an event.

Therefore, when someone asks you: “What are you going to do this weekend?”, they are asking about your plans. They are not asking you to predict the future. If you have organised a birthday party with your friends and everything is ready, you can answer: “I’m having a birthday party on Saturday night. Would you like to come?”.

Info3

In this last chart, we can see that we also use WILL to make promises and to talk about imprecise future events.

Finally, we use the PRESENT SIMPLE to talk about timetables and schedules. So, we use it to talk about the future when we talk about means of transport, shops, banks, museums, conferences, schools or music festivals.

Dealing with phrasal verbs

Phrasal verbs are among the worst nightmares for English students, especially those who are thinking about sitting the FCE.

What I usually recommend my students when dealing with phrasal verbs is to try to memorise them by classifying them.

Most of my students write lists of phrasal verbs classifying them by their verb. Something like this:

Phrasal verb

Meaning

look after someone take care of someone
look down on someone consider someone as inferior
look for something search for something
look forward to something await or anticipate something with pleasure
look up to someone admire someone

However, there are better methods. As I said elsewhere, using mindmaps is a very useful method to classify and memorise vocabulary. You can organise these mindmaps by verb; like this:give-phrasal-verbs

or by particle, like this:

phrasal-verbs-with-up

Another interesting classifcation is to organise phrasal verbs by meaning, rather than form. For instance, you can make a group of phrasal verbs that can be used to talk about human relationships, like this:

relationships-phrasal-verbs

Another useful tip when trying to memorise phrasal verbs -maybe the best so far, is to make up sentences where these phrasal verbs are used in context. For instance:

Phrasal verb Meaning Example
find out discover When I found out that my camera had been stolen I went to the police immediately.
check in register into a hotel or airport Before we can got up to our rooms, we have to check in at the reception.
drop out leave school John is thinking about dropping out after his bad marks last term.
call off cancel The meeting has been called off because some people could not attend.
count on rely on You know you can always count on your family when you are in trouble.

All in all, I think the best way to learn phrasal verbs is to combine all these methods above and work with the new verbs in an active way (by listing, classifying and using them in context).

As usual, you can find this entry in pdf form here.

Adjectives from participles and gerunds (II)

Participle adjectives

Some months ago I published a post about adjectives that come from participles and gerunds. It is time to practice what we learnt there a little bit. You will find a couple of exercises below. The solutions -and a printable version of the exercises- can be downloaded at the end of the text.

Fill in the gaps in these sentences with the adjectives in the list below.

disappointed, confusing, frightened, surprising, embarrassing, frightening, exhausting, exciting, excited, charming, tired

  1. I found the film really _________ . I had to sleep with a light on!
  2. I was so _________ by my exam results. I had studied for weeks but, then, I got so nervous during the exam that I forgot everything.
  3.  The situation was really _________ . Imagine, the day you meet you in-laws; you are having dinner at a posh restaurant the waiter drops all the soup onto you!!!
  4. The children were really _________ about the theme park. They couldn’t stop talking about it.
  5.  I don’t like watching horror films because I feel so _________ afterwards that I can’t sleep.
  6. The book I am reading is so _________ that I have read ten chapters already!
  7. Her story was really _________. I would have never dreamt of such an ending.
  8. The baby is so _________. Look at his rosy cheeks.
  9. Running the London Marathon is _________ . I have never been so _________ before.
  10. The instructions for the task are really _________. I don’t understand what we have to do.

Now choose the correct adjective for each sentence.

  1. I feel really bored/boring today. I don’t know what to do.
  2. The documentary about modern technology was fascinated/fascinating.
  3. Jane was so annoyed/annoying by her argument with Pete that she didn’t come to the party.
  4. After his break-up with Judy, Mark was depressed/depressing for a while, but eventually he started going out again and met his current girlfriend.
  5. I have some amazed/amazing news!
  6. This is a stimulated/stimulating exercise. You should try it!
  7. I found the exhibition really interested/interesting.
  8. The clown’s performance was very entertained/entertaining.
  9. His words are always flattered/flattering but I wouldn’t trust him much.
  10. I’d be so moved/moving by a such a show of affection.

You can download the exercises and their solutions.

Verbs never used in a Continuous tense

When teaching my students the difference between the Present Simple and the Present Continuous, there’s always a moment when I need to tell them that State Verbs are never used in a Continuous tense, but what are and which are State Verbs?

The easiest way to distinguish between state (or non-progressive) verbs is to check the meaning of the verb/sentence. State verbs refer to unalterable conditions, whereas action verbs refer to processes. Compare these sentences:

  • She is tall. (Can that be changed?)
  • She plays the piano. (She can stop playing the piano and start a new process).

Among state verbs we have different subcategories:

Stative: be, seem, appear

Possession: have, belong to, own, contain

Thinking: believe, think, consider, doubt, agree, concern, imagine, impress, mean, understand

Emotions: like, love, hate, dislike, matter, mind, want, wish

Verbs that belong to these groups will never be used in a continuous tense as they cannot be used to describe a process. If you are not sure about a verb, a good tip is to ask yourself “Can I be in the middle of _______ (having a car, believing in God, loving my parents)?” If the answer is negative, then you have a state verb!

You can find several lists in the Internet but you have to be careful with these because sometimes a verb can be used as a state and an action verb because it has more than one meaning. The clearest example is “have”, which can mean “possess” or “take”. For instance,

  • I have a beautiful picture of a British landscape in the living room.
  • I have cereal and milk for breakfast.

The first example is a state verb, whereas the second is an action verb. Therefore, it can be used both in continuous and simple tenses.

Other verbs like “have” are “think”, “be” or “consider”. Can you guess their two meanings?

Let me lend you a hand:

  • I think/consider this is a good idea (I have an opinion)
  • I am thinking/considering about buying a new car (I am making a list of positive and negatvie points before maing a decision)
  • I am a shy (this is an unalterable characteristic)
  • The kid is being very spoilt today (he is behaving in a strange manner)

You can download this information in PDF format.

Conditional sentences

We use conditional sentences to express that a certain situation (the main clause) can only take place if a certain condition (if clause) is met before. We have four different kinds of conditional sentences called Zero, First, Second or Third Conditional -or Type 0, I, II, III. the difference in meaning between these clauses is whether the speaker believes the condition to be more or less possible.

Below, you can find the four different kinds of conditional clauses with an explanation of its form and function.

Zero Conditinal

zero

We use the zero conditional to talk about general facts, not specific situations, for instance, natural laws. Sometimes, we use “when” or “whenever” instead of “if”.

Examples:

  • If/When/Whenever you heat water, it boils.
  • If/When/Whenever it rains, the ground gets wet.
  • If/When/Whenever you don’t sleep well, you are tired.

First Conditional

first

We us the First Conditional to talk about specific situations. Both the condition and the result are seen as real and possible by the speaker.

Examples:

  • If you go to the party, you will meet very interesting people there.
  • If you study hard, you will pass all your exams.
  • If you tell her a secret, she will tell everybody.

Sometimes, instead of “if”, we use the connector “unless”. Compare the following sentences:

  • If he does not get here soon, he will miss the train.
  • Unless he gets here soon, he will miss the train.

Second Conditional

second

We use the second conditional to talk about an unreal situation and its probable result. Both the condition and result are seen as unlikely by the speaker.

Examples:

  • If I had a lot of money, I would buy a new car.
  • If she changed her attitude, she would have more friends.
  • If they helped us, we would finish in about an hour.

If the verb in the “if” clause is the verb to be, we can use “were” with all subjects. It is a more formal option.

  • If I were you, I would tell her the truth.
  • If Jack were here, he would know what to do.

Third Conditional

third

We use the third condional to make hypothesis about the past. Both the condition and the consequence are impossible because they happened in the past

Examples:

  • If I had known how, I would have helped you.
  • If they had not been late, they would have seen the whole film.
  • If John had told me, I wouldn’t have done it.

Whatever the kind of conditional, we can change the order in which we use the sentences. In other words, we can start with the “if” clause, or not. However, it is really important to keep the verb tenses correct. Compare these sentences:

  • If you press the button, the machine starts.
  • The machine starts if you press the button.

 

  • I will call you if she comes.
  • If she comes, I will call.

 

  • I wouldn’t tell you if I knew!
  • If I knew, I wouldn’t tell you!

 

  • I would have arrived on time if I hadn’t missed the train.
  • If I hadn’t missed the train, I would have arrived on time.

 

When we start with the “if” clause, we usually use a comma between clauses. This is not necessary when the “if” clause is at the end.

You can download this information if pdf format by clicking on  “conditionals“.

Frequency adverbs

  • I sometimes write posts about grammar.
  • I always write them in English.
  • I never joke about learning languages.

Today we are going to learn how to use frequency adverbs. To start with, let see some of them:

frequencyadverbs

In the chart above, you can find the most comonly used frequency adverbs ordered from the most to the least frequent. When three of them appear in a column, it means that they have a similar meaning.

Now it’s time to learn to use them in a sentence. First of all, you have to distiguish between frequency and other kinds of adverbs. The former (frequency) follow their special rule about word order in the sentence. In general, word order is very strict in English. The general rule is that the order in a sentence has to be:

Subject + Verb + Objects (Direct and Indirect) + Complements (time, place, manner ….).

Examples:

  • I went to the shop quickly.
  • Jane was sitting on the sofa lazily.

We can make some exceptions to this rule by placing the adverb at the very beginning, but the idea is that the less important complements do not interfere with the Subject+Verb+Object rule.

  • Luckily, we could find the keys.

Frequency adverbs work in a different way. They have to appear just before the main verb. If the main verb is the verb TO BE, they have to be placed after it.

  • Sue never reads the newspaper.
  • We sometimes play computer games.
  • Children hardly ever listen to their parents.
  • Jack does not always come to class.
  • Do they often work on Saturdays?
  • I’m always very happy at Christmas.
  • She isn’t usually here in the mornings.

Again, there might be exceptions to this rule and. Sometimes, adverbs might be placed at the beginning of a sentence, followed by a comma.

  • Sometimes, I feel like having a break from work an travelling all over the world.

There are other adverbs that follow the same rule that frequency adverbs. Some of these are already, also, ever, just…..But we will deal with them in another post!

Finally, there’s only one thing left to say about frequency adverbs. Have a look at the chart at the beginning of the post again, please. Did you notice that some adverbs are positive, while others are negative?

This is because those called “negative” make the sentence negative. In other words, if we use use “hardly ever, seldom, rarely or never”, the sentence becomes negative, which means that we cannot use a negative adverb.

  • Mary never uses the phone when she is having lunch.
  • Mary doesn’t never use the phone when she is having lunch.

I hope you always use frequency adverbs correctly from now on!

Possessive ‘s / Saxon Genitive

Today’s blog is going to deal with how we express possession in English. We are going to focus on one structure; Possessive ‘s or Saxon Genitive.

To start with, let’s see some examples:

  • I like Mary’s jacket.
  • John’s new car is very fast.
  • My father’s dog is very big.

As you can see we use “’s” after a noun or a name to show that an object belongs to someone. So, the jacket belongs to Mary, the car belongs to John and the dog belongs to my father.

When we have a noun with a final -s (because it is plural, or not), we may only add the apostrophe (‘).

  • My friends’ house is very near.
  • Charles’ sister is coming to the party.

If you try to translate these sentences into Spanish or Catalan, you will see that we use a completely different structure:

  • English: possessor + ‘s + object
  • Spanish or Catalan: object + de + possessor

If we used these sentences following the structure in our language, we would be making a mistake:

  • I like the jacket of Mary. (No!!!!!!)
  • The new car of John is very fast. (No!!!!!!)
  • The dog of my father is very big. (No!!!!!!)

However, in English, we sometimes use the structure of + object. Check these
examples:

  • The end of the street is very crowded.
  • The employees of the new supermarket are doing training week.
  • The leg of the table is broken.

In these cases, we can use of + object, because we are talking about a part of a thing, so the relation is not that of possession.

Did you notice that the name my blog contains an example of the possessive ‘s?